Easier FAFSA Inspires Hope for More College Aid: Experts offer advice on how to avoid expensive financial aid mistakes
Procrastination and tricky financial aid rules have been costing millions of college students big bucks. But new efforts to make the Free Application for Federal Student Aid easier may enable more students to qualify for more money.
About half of all students who file a FAFSA miss their state's deadline and thus lose out on opportunities for extra grants, one study has found. And another recent study found that students who sought free professional help filling out their FAFSAs got 30 percent more aid than those not offered advice and assistance.
Students who haven't filed their applications by
In addition, one of the biggest reasons for procrastination, the difficulty of the form, has been reduced this year. The most recent electronic version of the FAFSA has eliminated several redundant questions. And in some cases, the FAFSA is allowing those who've filed their taxes to click a button and have their relevant tax information automatically entered into their FAFSA--saving a lot of time and energy.
"The FAFSA uses some tax lingo that is not user-friendly," says
Still, even those who have their tax questions automatically filled in can get tripped up by other arcane rules and gotchas. Simple mistakes such as not using a full formal name can cause big headaches, for example.
[Video: Common Mistakes on the FAFSA]
Failing to read the fine print can also result in expensive errors. The FAFSA states that the values of some assets, such as homes or retirement accounts, shouldn't be included, but some parents mistakenly add those in and thus reduce their eligibility for aid, says
Likewise, he says he often has to deliver bad news to stepparents who mistakenly believe that prenuptial agreements absolve them of financial responsibility for stepchildren's tuition.
The FAFSA also doesn't give any advice on how to structure family finances to increase availability for aid, such as using savings to pay down bills or debts, or moving a student's college savings into a 529 college savings account, Hoffman notes.
- How to Avoid Expensive Financial Aid Mistakes
- Alternative Spring Breaks Combine Service & Learning
- How to Relax and Ace Your College Midterms
- Making Majors out of Math Skills
- Academic Affair: Beware!
- Free Online Course Offerings Grow in Abundance and Popularity
- Will You Get Enough Financial Aid?
- New Rules Protect Students from Credit Card Issuers
Education: How to Avoid Expensive Financial Aid Mistakes | Kim Clark
(c) 2010 U.S. News & World Report